Despite record, Avs have improved (so far)

Sometimes it's easy to see the trees and miss the forest, but the Avs are actually playing pretty decent hockey, with a couple of notable exceptions *cough* Special Teams *cough*. (Avs gave up another PK goal tonight).

Last season the Avs biggest problem gave up a LOT of shots on 5 vs 5, and conversely didn't take a lot of shots 5 vs 5. 5 vs 5 their Shots for /60 was 3rd worst in the league at 27.4 and their Shots Against per 60 was 5th worst at 31.3. The only other teams that approached that kind of discrepancy were the Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Montreal Canadiens. That's not good company (and before anyone defends the Canadiens, they were eighth in the awful East in the Reg season.) . Despite the nice season, if the Avs kept the same shot discrepancy this season it's likely their season would me more like the Oil, Panthers or Blue Jackets.

This season, the Avs have improved in that area by leaps and bounds. Remember this is a small sample size, but over the first 8 games the Avs have improved by 6 SF/60 and are now 8th in the league. They still give up a lot of shots at even strength (32.4 SA/60) but are currently 21st.  That's a pretty substantial improvement.

More after the jump


Those numbers look even better when you consider who the Avs opponents have been so far: Chicago, Philly, Detroit, San Jose, New Jersey, LA (and Vancouver tonight). The Avs have played the defending Cup Champs, defending Eastern Champs, and 4 (tonight 5) of the other 7 West Playoff teams. Of the Avs 1st 9 opponents only the NY Rangers and NY Isles didn't make the playoffs last season. So the Avs are, on average, out-shooting very good teams. The Avs numbers should improve when they start playing the Columbuses and Edmontons of the world.

There are several reasons the Avs record doesn't match their play. One is the aforementioned difficult teams. Another is just the inherent randomness & luck involved in small sample sizes. I don't think the 3rd possibility is likely, but I can't rule it out so I'll throw it out there: The Avs have trailed early, and trailing teams tend to get more shots. There's nothing to substantiate that either way (or I haven't found anything) but it's a possibility.

The 4th and biggest (besides randomness) is their specialty team play. I am frustrated by this, but if anything can be fixed by a trade, it's special teams. One thing I'd like to see is what it's like And the Avs have a lot of maneuverability for a trade, and it's been so bad that it can only get better.  Look, the Avs aren't giving up 40 Shorthanded goals this season. The Avs PK is going to be better than 75%. (I was going to say something about the PP, but they are an unbelievable 23.3%. I think they counted the wrong team).

So The Avs have weathered a pretty tough storm pretty well. This bodes well for the season.

(PS all my optimism is lost if Andy is out for an extended period of time after being injured tonight against Vancouver)